You and your family want to be healthier, so you eat more vegetables, right? What if everyone hates vegetables or only eats corn? What if there is little time to cook? If only broccoli tasted like fudge, salad greens stayed fresh for weeks, and brussel sprouts tasted like ice cream, then there would be no problem.
Do not despair! Former “vegetable haters” have recovered and gone on to become “vegetable lovers.” Consider these 12 steps to “vegetable victory.”
Step #1. Set the goal. Are you trying to lose weight or prevent heart disease? Are you trying to establish good habits for your kids? Are you trying to save money by cooking at home? Do you want to cut down on blood pressure or diabetes medications? Write down the goal where you can see it, like on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror or your phone screen. Having a clear goal helps increase “want to,” also known as motivation.
Step #2. Figure out the biggest barrier to your goal. Do you hate all vegetables or just mushy overcooked ones? Are you unfamiliar with different vegetables? Maybe your mom never cooked any vegetables except for corn. Do you hate to cook or don’t have time? Figure out what the biggest problem is to meeting your goal.
Step #3. Look at the barriers. Brain storm strategies to overcome. If you don’t like vegetables because of the texture, try cooking them differently or eating them raw. If the problem is you never ate broccoli, try it fresh with dip or try cooking frozen broccoli. Try one new vegetable each week. If the issue is lack of time, try frozen vegetables cooked in the microwave or eat “no cook” vegetables, like baby carrots, pre-cut celery, grape tomatoes or pre-washed salad greens.
Step #4. Build a support group. Talk to a family member, friend or coworker who is trying to eat healthier. Ask them what they are doing. If you are in an exercise class, ask the other members. Look for online support groups that are focused on healthy eating. Sharing ideas and recipes is fun and helps others.
Step #5. Find an accountability partner. This is an effective strategy to keep you going. If your goal is to take less medications, then consider your doctor or employee health nurse. Seeing good results of your bloodwork, blood pressure or weight can be very encouraging. If your goal is to practice healthier habits as a family, then your accountability partner might be your spouse. If saving money is the goal, then a friend or financial advisor might help with staying on track. Look for partners who are making changes themselves.
Step #6. Have a party! Yes, celebrate success. Celebrations come in all forms. Have a potluck and ask each person to bring their new favorite vegetable. Consider “non-food” fun, such as going to a movie, taking a painting class, buying a new outfit, buying a new tool, getting fresh flowers or taking a trip. Success breeds confidence.
Step #7. Try new recipes. You may dislike a vegetable but love it fixed in a different way. Here are some cookbook suggestions: Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Annual Recipes, Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas, Fix It and Forget It Lightly (crockpot cooking), Fifteen Minute Diabetic Meals, and Eat What You Love Quick & Easy. For online recipe sources try: Americancancersociety.org, fruitsandveggiesmorematters, Kraftrecipes.com/healthy-living-ideas, ChooseMyPlate.gov (links to recipe sites), www.fns.usda.gov/eatsmartplayhardkids.
Step #8. Be brave. Once a week, pick out a new vegetable. Often, there are preparation tips on the produce aisle. You might find a new favorite.
Step #9. Be practical. Maybe you just don’t want to try new recipes or new vegetables. Make a list of the vegetables you and your family do like. Buy the canned, frozen or fresh form of them and repeat weekly. Eat that vegetable at least once a day. Tip: Corn and potatoes are starchy vegetables so limit them to once a week.
Step #10. Sip it. Tomato juice, vegetable juice blends and vegetable juices are another option. No cooking required. Be aware if you have been advised to limit sodium, vegetable juices are higher in sodium than fruit juice. Vegetable juices are lower in calories and carbohydrates than fruit juice.
Step #11. Eat out! Order vegetables at a restaurant. In fact, choose where you go, based on whether vegetables are offered. Let them do the shopping, cooking and serving.
Step #12. Review. Look at your goals again. Do you have more energy, or have you lost a few pounds? Is your blood pressure better? Have you made new friends or improved family relationships? Have you found new favorite foods? Are you thinking more clearly or feeling more positive about other areas of your life? List all the benefits and let that progress keep you eating and maybe even loving vegetables.